As I mentioned in my video preview the other night (http://www.flowrestling.org/videos/speaker/1413-craig-vitagliano/71944-74-kilo-breakdown), this is by far most stacked weight I have seen in any World or Olympics.? You'll see 7 or 8 World medalists battling it out forthe Gold medal.
I'll say it again: If Ben Askren wins Gold here it will be the single greatest achievement by an American wrestler to date.
Here we go:
First round we will see 2003 World Silver Medalist Mourad Gaidarov of Belarus taking on Azerbaijan's Chamsulvara Chamsulvaraev, 3rd in last year's World Championships. I see this as an exciting bout. Gaidarov recently took 2nd in the European Championships with wins over Bentinidis and Brzozowski. Chamsulvaraev is long and lanky with a good fireman's carry and low single. There will be a lot of action in this bout with counter attacks and turns. Who knows, there may even be a fist fight! I pick Gaidarov to come on top in this bout.
Romania's Stefan Gheorgita, 5th in last year's World Championships will take on 2006 Bronze medalist Soslan Tigiev, representing Uzbekistan. Tigiev advances.
Just below that we will see Greece's Emzarios Bentinidis, 2000 European Champion, taking on 2004 NCAA Champion Matt Gentry of Canada. Bentinidis is very experienced and has wins over some of the top wrestlers in the world, including Ibragim Aldatov of Ukraine. He's 33 years old, and should beat the up and coming Gentry based upon experience alone.
Moving down to a ridiculously stacked bottom bracket, we will see 2006 World Silver medalist Aliasghar Bazrighaleh taking on Bulgaria's Kiril Terziev. Bazrighaleh is very technical with a great high single where he steps on your foot first. Bazrighaleh looks a little small for the weight but I see him emerging victorious in this bout.
2000 Olympic Silver medalist for Russia, Arsen Gitinov, now representing Kyrgyzstan, will be going against Poland's Krystian Brzozowski, 4th in the 2004 Olympics. This should be an excellent bout. Not sure about this one. Toss up. The winner of this bout will face 2006 World Champion and 2007 World Silver Medalist Ibragim Aldatov of the Ukraine.
USA's Ben Askren will be taking on Hungary's Gabor Hatos. Hatos' best performance was 3rd at the 2006 European Chamionships. Don't know much about this guy. It should be a good bout for Askren to prepare him for his next bout with Ivan Fundora of Cuba. Fundora is the 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist and is very experienced. He is fast and strong. It will be interesting to see how Askren does in this bout. He needs to constantly attack Fundora and not get out of position while he sets up his attacks as he did at the World Cup this year. I can see Askren walking away with a victory here.
The winner of Gitinov/Brzozowski will face Aldatov. Aldatov already has a win over Brzozowski at the 2006 Worlds. Aldatov should be on for this tournament and he'll win this bout. Look for his misdirection shots and his signature leg lace, which most wrestlers in the World have trouble defending.
Good Quarter Final bouts:
Tigiev v. Bentinidis. Look for a lot action and scoring between these two wrestlers. Bentinidis can shoot and throw and is very good in a scramble/flurry situation. Tigiev is short and compact with a solid high crotch. Look for Tigiev to come out on top in this bout.
Aldatov v. Bazrighaleh. Rematch of the 2006 World Championship finals in which Aldatov won handily. Look for a series of attacks and re-attacks, as well as some good flurries. These guys will get after it and will be one of the most exciting bouts of the tournament.
Askren v. Saitiev. Ok here we go, the match we've all been waiting for. One of the greatest college wrestlers ever for the United States, Ben Askren, will be going against arguably the greatest Freestyle wrestler of all time, 6 x World and 2 X Olympic Champion Buvaisar Saitiev of Russia. While this will be the first World level tournament for Askren, you wouldn't know it by talking to him. The guy simply exudes confidence. I'm not sure he has the experience to beat Saitiev, but it is certainly possible. Saitiev is probably the greatest technical wrestler to ever live: he shoots, he throws, he trips. And his defense, flexibility, and balance are currently unmatched by anyone in the world. At 33, Saitiev is definitely up there in age, but this old man has shown that he still has what it takes, destroying Fundora at this year's World Cup and beating defending World Champion Makhach Murtazaliev in the Finals of Russian Nationals.
Askren definitely has what it takes to beat this living legend, but at the end of the match I believe we will see Saitiev's hand raised. Look forward to an exciting match with all the funk and all the drama that we have been anticipating.
Following that it will be a semi final showdown in what will one of the most highly anticipated matches of the decade, and certainly for this Olympic Games: Ibragim Aldatov v. Buvaisar Saitiev. I think the first minute of this match will be spent feeling each other out. Look for Saitiev to create a lot of motion on his feet and controlling the tie ups with underhooks and two on ones. Look for Aldatov to set up his misdirection attack on Saitiev with headshucks and arm drags. I don't think Aldatov is going to be able to catch Saitiev flat footed to get in deep enough on his attack like he normally does and it will be a counter attack which will score for Saitiev. Look for this to be the best match up the entire tournament.
Mourad Gaidarov, Belarus v. Soslan Tigiev, Uzbekistan
Ibragim Aldatov, Ukraine v. Buvaisar Saitiev, Russia
Finals: Tigiev v. Saitiev
Gold Medal: Buvaisar Saitiev, Russia